Tag Archives: trainer questions

4MAT Facilitation: Handling Learner Questions

We have been exploring the topic of questions in our recent 4MAT blog series. In almost every 4MAT Train the Trainer program, the question of how to handle questions for which you don’t have the answer comes up. Let’s look at some strategies for effectively addressing questions we don’t know the answer to:

If the question is directly related to the course content and objectives, offer to find the answer. You can share something like: “That’s a great question. I’m going to make a note of this and do a bit of research. I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow morning.” If the course is wrapping up, alternatively, you can offer to send a follow-up email with the information.

If the question is advanced or of interest to only a select few individuals, you might choose to give them some additional resources to explore. You might share something like, “I see you are interested in exploring this further. Let me recommend a helpful book (or blog, url or article) that goes into depth on this topic.”

If the research is not available or contradictory around the topic, let the learners know this. You might say something like, “The jury is out on of this one. Experts such as xx, tell us that xx.  I recently read an article in xx that shared a different perspective. What are your thoughts on this?” Encourage the group to explore the topic further.

If the question is not relevant to the defined outcomes of the course, use a stay-on-track strategy.  If the question is taking the group down a rabbit trail that leads somewhere you don’t want to go, you can use the “parking lot”. Simply post a flip chart paper on the wall to record and  “park” questions or topics for later discussion. It is important to set this up early in the session and explain the use of the parking lot. You might say something like, “That’s a good question. Let’s put this in the parking lot. If we end up with a bit of time left over today, it would be interesting to explore. If we don’t, you and I can chat about this after the session.”

Do you have a favorite strategy for addressing unexpected questions?

Powerful 4MAT Training Questions

Every question has a corresponding set of possible answers. The design of the question determines how broad or narrow the response field becomes. For example, when I ask the question, “Do you agree with me?” the response field is limited to a “yes” or “no” option. When I ask the question, “What do you agree with in what I just said?”, the response field broadens considerably.

Almost every train the trainer program will reference the importance of asking questions. Part of the art of crafting questions is the awareness that the question opens up the space for the dialogue. There are times when you want to narrow that space. For instance, when you are leading the learner somewhere specific or you are short on time. And, there are times when you want to open that space wide and see what might emerge in the dialogue.

Many of us get concerned about encouraging dialogue because we are worried that we can’t get the conversation back on course. The questions you ask can help you lead the conversation and redirect when needed.

Narrow                                                                         Broad                                                                             

Do you agree with me?                    What do you agree with in what was just shared?

Does this make sense?                     What part of this conversation is intriguing you?

Are you okay with this?                    What’s working for you? What could be better?